A biweekly roundup of automotive news, good, bad and just plain weird:
Speed camera catches 58,000 in two weeks
The Italians have long had a notoriously flexible attitude towards speed limits. It’s no surprise that both Ferrari and Lamborghini are Italian: everyone in Italy from the taxi driver to apple-cheeked and wrinkly old nonna to the fierce-eyed young woman all drive like they’ve just been employed by Enzo himself to set a new lap record.
Obviously, this can be a little dangerous, and the authorities don’t turn a completely blind eye to all the extra-legal scooting around. In the tiny town of Acquetico, population 120, the mayor responded to complaints from residents about speed demons flying through the main street by setting up a speed camera.
The speed camera, presumably, has since collapsed from exhaustion. Over the course of two weeks, it issued a staggering 58,568 tickets, or almost 4,200 tickets per day. Mama mia!
Lest we look down our noses too much at our lead-footed Italian brothers and sisters, just think of how busy a speed camera would be if it was snapping pictures of every single person who went 61 kilometres per hour or more over the Lion’s Gate Bridge on a weekday morning. Better to have a Carabinieri than a camera, to actually slow people down.
Nissan CEO arrested on tax charges
They called him “Le Cost Killer,” for his ability to slash overhead and bring Nissan and Renault back from the brink of bankruptcy. Now, though, Brazilian-born Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn finds his own head on the chopping block.
According to reports from Japanese media, the colourful Ghosn is accused of using company funds personally, and for underreporting his pay to tax authorities. As a scandal, it’s the equivalent of seeing Henry Ford in the docket for fiddling the books.
Aside from various Renaults we don’t get over here, Ghosn is responsible for shoring up both companies starting from the mid-1990s and making them powerful enough to gain a controlling interest in Mitsubishi. Cars like the current Nissan GT-R and Nissan Leaf are both part of Ghosn’s legacy, the former showing the peak power of Japanese engineering, the latter showing a road map into the future of electric motoring.
The world of top-level automotive executives has been in a bit of turmoil this year, from departures at Volkswagen over their diesel scandal, to the sad loss of Fiat-Chrysler’s Sergio Marchionne after surgery. What Ghosn’s departure is going to mean for Nissan and the industry at large remains to be seen.
Volvo road warrior finally pulls over
The man is a legend in Volvo circles. Irv Gordon, a school teacher from Long Island, bought a Volvo P1800 in 1966, and then proceeded to drive the absolute wheels off it. He set a Guinness World Record at 1.69 million miles (2.72 million kilometres), and kept driving.
Part of the charm of Gordon’s story was that he did virtually all of his own maintenance, and his Volvo responded with faithful good service. He had the engine rebuilt twice, but the first time it turned out to be an unnecessary repair. He put a million miles on the first rebuild, with nothing more than the usual oil changes. The car only got its second refreshed engine in 2009.
The last recorded mileage was more than five million kilometres on the clock, more than anyone else in the world. Volvo of course was well aware of Gordon’s feats, and presented him with several new cars over the years. He never kept them, preferring his faithful old P1800 instead.
Now, sadly, Gordon is gone, passed away at the age of 77. It’s unlikely anyone will ever match his record, not in this age of complex machinery with dozens of computer-controlled parts. Cars are like phones now, requiring replacement ever more frequently.
A salute, then, to one car and owner who went the distance together. Hopefully, both Gordon and his little red P1800 will enjoy a rest at last.
B.C. plans to ban combustion-engine car sales by 2040
Premier John Horgan laid out some fairly ambitious zero-emissions vehicle standards for B.C. this week. The proposed legislation indicates a requirement of 10 per cent of all new light duty car and truck sales to be zero-emissions (EV or hydrogen-powered) by 2025. That number increases to 30 per cent by 2030, and 100 per cent by 2040.
Currently, electric vehicle ownership is growing in the Lower Mainland, but remains a small percentage of the total provincial fleet. The NDP’s legislation hopes to change that by putting pressure on dealers, while simultaneously upholding rebate programs for electric and hydrogen cars.
Now, more consumer access to electric vehicles – by choice – is certainly a good thing. People should be able to purchase the vehicle that best fits their need. Further, there’s likely to be some kind of tipping point in the EV market, when you’ll be able to buy the equivalent of an electric Honda Civic that’ll be about as convenient to own as a conventional car, and probably a little easier to maintain.
However, there are all sorts of problems with infrastructure availability, what the federal government is going to do, and the ability of the grid to take up the strain. To be fair, even if every single new car was required to be an EV starting tomorrow, there’d still be plenty of older combustion-engined vehicles on the road for at least the next decade.
Making electric vehicles more readily accessible to consumers is probably a good idea. Setting goals that might be too optimistic is probably not a great one. And, lest we all get too excited over any big changes in the future, just remember that our speed limits seem to go up and down depending on who’s in power, but mostly, people seem to drive the same either way.
Watch this space for all the best and worst of automotive news, or submit your own auto oddities to firstname.lastname@example.org.